The NK-33 engines were originally built for the Soviet Moon Rocket, the N-1. (Under the designation of NK-15, and NK-15V for the high altitude version). This design was a direct result of a blazing row between the Chief Designer, (Sergey Korolev), and the best rocket engine designer, Valentin Glushko. Glushko wanted to use propellants which Korolov considered far too dangerous. So Korolev turned to Nikolai Kuznetsov, who up until that point had only designed engines for jet aircraft. Large rocket engines are notoriously difficult to design, due to combustion instability, so they were pretty much forced into a large number of smaller engines.
Many consider this a key reason for the failure of the N-1 program.
I was dithering over what to title this N-1 post. New photos? Not exactly new, as they are based on old video, and (in most cases) stitched together from video that panned around.
Anyway, here are some photos I put together from video. If you are interested in the Manned Soviet Lunar program, it’s worth following Roscosmos on YouTube – they seem to be slowly restoring and releasing the various bits of N-1 footage at higher quality, and releasing it piecemeal in the items on the history of space exploration.
The quality of these photos is highly variable, (by which I mean that some are awful!), but given the shortage of N-1 references, I hope they will prove useful.
Let’s start with the banner image, showing the L3 (upper) section, of the N1-5L This is a pretty good shot of the farings that cover the parts that would reach the moon.
It’s worth noticing the crew escape system on the left:
Note how the exhaust holes near the tip are two different sizes. This is so that, if it is used, it will carry the crew to one side, and away from the main rocket.
The first part covered the background and references.
This part will cover the actual CGI model building.
As is clear from even a casual glance, the main challenge was going to be making sense of all those struts. Doing them indiviually would not be practical so I had to understand the various repeating patterns and symmetrys in them. If you look through the structure at an angle, it can seem very complex:
But from other angles the patterns are a lot clearer
Despite the difficulties of my N-1 models, I consider the most challenging mesh I ever built in terms of level of detail to be the model of the Lovell Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank.
One major advantage compared to most of my projects is that I was able to visit the real thing, and get a large number of reference photos. Plus I had some useful help from the staff, who were kind enough to provide accurate overall dimensions of the major elements.
I was absolutely delighted a year or so back when the great David A Hardy suggested a collaboration!
I think the first art of his I came across was probably an album cover for the awesome Space Rock band, Hawkwind. Anyway, you really should check out his web site:
We went with his first suggestion, a combination of the landing craft from the famous “Colliers” articles from the 1950’s, as designed by Wernher von Braun, and modelled by myself, with a landscape that DH would make. Continue reading “A collaboration with David A Hardy”